US Military to Build Port to Speed Aid to Gaza

March 7, 2024 by Dan McCue
US Military to Build Port to Speed Aid to Gaza
A United Nations worker prepares aid for distribution to Palestinians at UNRWA warehouse in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Hassan Eslaiah)

WASHINGTON — U.S. military personnel will build a port in Gaza to help speed humanitarian aid to Palestinians caught in the war zone there, senior administration and Department of Defense officials announced Thursday.

The mission, which officials said would not actually require “boots on the ground,” will be among the new initiatives to expand aid to civilians in Gaza that President Biden will talk about Thursday night during his State of the Union address.

Speaking on background during a Thursday morning briefing with reporters, the officials said the emergency mission to establish a port in the Mediterranean on the Gaza coast is part of the ongoing effort by the administration to “flood the zone” when it comes to humanitarian aid for the citizens of Gaza.

Last week, Ambassador David Satterfield, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues, spoke to reporters about the distribution network and security challenge related to aid flowing through existing border crossings at Rafah and Kerem Shalom in southern Gaza.

In short, he said, despite the best efforts of the U.S. and others engaged in the effort, aid floating into Gaza was nowhere near enough and nowhere fast enough.

The United Nations has warned that at least 576,000 of the roughly 2.3 million residents of Gaza are on the brink of famine.

In response, last Wednesday, Biden directed U.S. military personnel to carry out airdrops of supplies into the region.

On the first day of the ongoing effort, the DoD and the Royal Jordanian Air Force dropped 38,000 meals from aircraft flying along the coastline of Gaza, targeting locations where citizens would best be able to get to the aid.

In all, during the first two hours of flights, a total of 66 bundles were dropped, 22 from each C-130 aircraft.

As of Thursday morning, 192 bundles, containing 112,896 meals, have been dropped in areas accessible to civilians, including parts of northern Gaza. 

A number of other international partners have joined in the effort, including Egypt, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. 

Also on Thursday the UN began assessing the viability of an Israeli military road for delivering aid to desperate civilians in the north of Gaza.

“Hopefully, over the coming days, we’ll see a pilot transport through that new crossing, and then see shipments ramp up from there” the officials on the call said.

Speaking of the planned port, the officials said the idea, in broad terms, is for American military personnel to lead the construction of a temporary pier from vessels in the Mediterranean.

Other “like-minded countries and humanitarian partners” will do whatever work is necessary on the actual shoreline.

When the project is finished, it will be big enough to receive large ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters, the officials said.

“The port will provide the capacity for hundreds of additional truckloads of assistance each day,” the officials said.

“We will coordinate with the Israelis on the security requirements on land, and work with the UN and humanitarian [nongovernmental organizations] who understand the distribution of assistance within Gaza,” they said. 

The officials said the development of the new port will take a number of weeks to plan and execute.

“The forces that will be required to complete this mission are either already in the region or will begin to move there soon,” the officials said. “We look forward to working with our close partners and allies in Europe, the Middle East and beyond to build a coalition of countries that will contribute capabilities and funding for this initiative.”

Initial shipments through the port will come through Cyprus, and are seen as building on the existing Amalthea Initiative.

The initiative outlines how humanitarian aid is collected in an operations center based in the southern Cypriot city of Larnaca, which has a port and airport, and where a coordination center with 33 countries is already operating.

“It essentially provides a platform at the port of Larnaca for the transloading of assistance and screening by Israeli officials of Gaza-bound goods,” the officials said, adding that while the U.S. military will lead the port development effort in the first instance, “we look forward to it transitioning to a commercial operation facility over time.”

The officials went on to say that while the expansion of aid into Gaza “by every means necessary” is a good thing, the best way to enable humanitarian organizations to safely distribute life saving aid would be for Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.

And they went on to say the path to a ceasefire is straightforward at this point.

“There could be at least a six-week ceasefire today, if Hamas would agree to release a defined category of vulnerable hostages, including women, elderly, sick and the wounded,” they said. 

“That deal is on the table now, and has been for more than a week. It would bring immediate relief to the people of Gaza, and it would also create the conditions needed to enable the urgent humanitarian work that must be done. The onus right now is on Hamas,” the officials on the call said.

They stressed that Biden has been dealing with the situation in Gaza “in a very personal way” almost 24/7 “since the horrific attacks of Oct. 7.”

“Tonight during the State of the Union, the president will talk about those attacks, Israel’s right to go after Hamas and those responsible and also Israel’s added burden to protect innocent civilians and address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” they said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

A+
a-
  • Gaza
  • humanitarian aid
  • Joe Biden
  • port
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    White House

    Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Address Congress Amid Skepticism About US Role Abroad

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will head to Capitol Hill on Thursday for an address to U.S. lawmakers meant... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will head to Capitol Hill on Thursday for an address to U.S. lawmakers meant to underscore the importance of keeping a strong partnership between the two countries at a time of tension in the Asia-Pacific and skepticism in Congress about... Read More

    April 10, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    President Celebrates ‘Unbreakable Alliance’ During Japanese Prime Minister’s Visit

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden feted his Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the latter’s state visit here on... Read More

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden feted his Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the latter’s state visit here on Wednesday, while also announcing a series of moves intended to deepen cooperation between the two nations on several fronts. “The unbreakable alliance between Japan and the... Read More

    Justice Department Blasts GOP Effort to Hold Attorney General Garland in Contempt Over Biden Audio

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Monday blasted Republicans' effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over his refusal... Read More

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Monday blasted Republicans' effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over his refusal to turn over unredacted materials related to the special counsel probe into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press,... Read More

    April 8, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Biden Administration Invests $6.6B to Bolster US Chip Manufacturing

    WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is awarding up to $6.6 billion in grants to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the... Read More

    WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is awarding up to $6.6 billion in grants to the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the largest maker of the most advanced microchips in the world, to help support construction of the company’s first major hub in the United States. The announcement... Read More

    April 5, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    President Biden to Travel to Site of Baltimore Bridge Collapse

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will visit the site of the Baltimore bridge that collapsed after it was rammed by... Read More

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will visit the site of the Baltimore bridge that collapsed after it was rammed by a fully loaded cargo ship and is expected to reaffirm his commitment to rebuild the structure and reopen the Port of Baltimore as quickly as possible.... Read More

    April 4, 2024
    by Dan McCue
    Biden Presses Netanyahu on Curtailing Civilian Casualties in Gaza

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to swiftly implement new steps to protect... Read More

    WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to swiftly implement new steps to protect civilians and aid workers in Gaza or face the curtailment of U.S. support for Israel’s ongoing war effort against Hamas. Speaking to reporters in the White... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top